NASA OIG: Final Report on Internal Controls Over Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) Costs

Status Report From: NASA Office of Inspector General
Posted: Thursday, April 1, 2004

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National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Office of Inspector General
Washington, D.C. 20546-0001
Reply to Attn of: W
March 16, 2004

TO: A/Special Assistant to the Administrator
D/Chief Engineer
M/Associate Administrator for Space Flight
O/Assistant Administrator for Institutional and Corporate Management
Q/Associate Administrator for Safety and Mission Assurance
LaRC/A/Center Director

FROM: W/Assistant Inspector General for Auditing

SUBJECT: Final Report on Internal Controls Over Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) Costs (Report Number IG-04-013)

We conducted this audit to determine whether the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) established controls to ensure that 1) expenditures were reasonable, necessary, and properly accounted for and 2) goods and services were acquired in accordance with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). As of September 30, 2003, CAIB costs, which were funded through NASA's appropriation, totaled $16.9 million.

To accomplish our objectives we identified and assessed CAIB processes for controlling expenditures and ensuring goods and services were acquired in accordance with FAR. We also reviewed documentation supporting procurement actions and other expenditures totaling $9.1 million.

We concluded that within 2 months of beginning operations, the CAIB Executive Secretary for Management established effective processes for controlling expenditures and ensuring contracts were in accordance with FAR. Although our review of procurement actions and other expenditures led us to question payments totaling $215,215 (2.4 percent of those reviewed), we conclude that they occurred for unique reasons and did not represent systemic weaknesses in controls. We are, however, recommending that NASA seek a voluntary refund of $30,563 for an overpayment to the CAIB's primary support contractor.

The Executive Secretary's accomplishment in establishing and implementing effective internal controls reflects positively on the quality and commitment of the CAIB's support staff. This accomplishment is noteworthy given that the CAIB was established on the day of the Columbia accident, and it began its work without a pre-established framework for controlling its financial and procurement activities. We believe that NASA can use the experience of the CAIB support staff to improve its process for establishing and conducting major mishap investigation boards. To that end, we are recommending that NASA revise the Contingency Action Plan for Space Flight Operations to include a framework for establishing a support staff and ensuring that necessary financial and procurement controls are implemented upon the initiation of a major mishap board. The enclosure contains details on the scope, methodology, findings and recommendations of our audit. NASA management has agreed to action that is responsive to our findings and recommendations. We will follow up to determine if the actions have been completed. If you have any questions please contact me at 358-2572.

[Original signed by]

David M. Cushing

Audit Report on Columbia Accident Investigation Board Financial and Procurement Management

B/Chief Financial Officer
G/General Counsel
Q/Associate Administrator
M-2/Audit Liaison Representative
OJD/Director, Management Systems Division
JSC/Center Director
KSC/Center Director
LaRC/Branch Head, Supply and Simplified Acquisition Branch, Office of Procurement
JSC/BD5/Audit Liaison Representative KSC/QA-D/ Audit Liaison Representative
LaRC/R/Audit Liaison Representative

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